Earth Day: How to Recycle Used Cloth Face Masks & How Much It Costs

A sewing room with custom face masks being created.
adamkaz / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When the federal courts reversed the mask mandate imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention many airlines, public transit systems, and other businesses lifted mask requirements.

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Many people continue choosing to wear a mask in public places, and some cities like New York and San Francisco have kept mandates in place. But other people can’t get rid of those cloth coverings quickly enough. But are old masks destined for the landfill?

As we celebrate Earth Day this Friday, April 22, you may want to consider these environmentally friendly ways to recycle or reuse those old cloth masks.

Can You Even Recycle Cloth?

According to Popular Science, it is possible to recycle cloth in the same way we send plastic bottles to a recycling facility to find a new life as a park bench, shampoo bottles or packing materials. But it’s not easy and there aren’t many facilities devoted to recycling fabric, PopSci says. “There’s no real existing mechanisms for where to put that,” Robert Speight, a professor of microbial biotechnology at Queensland University of Technology told PopSci.

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You could invest in a Terracycle Zero Waste Box designed to recycle fabrics and clothing. Simply fill the box with masks and send it back to Terracycle for recycling. A small box (11″ x 11″ x 20″) costs $123. While it’s costly, it could be a smart investment for people in a school, an office, or an apartment building. You could even make it a neighborhood project and collect as many masks as will fit in the box.

How Else to Re-Use Cloth Masks

If you’d prefer not to spend any extra money but want to do the right thing for the environment, consider re-purposing your cloth masks. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, these scraps of fabric could find new life as doll clothes, dollhouse accessories (such as blankets or pillows), pillowcases, pillows, or even squares in a full-size quilt. Mixed media artists can use the cloth in any number of creative ways, too.

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If you aren’t crafty yourself, consider listing the masks in a “gifting” or “freecycle”-style group on Facebook where people share items they no longer need. Your old masks could end up as a Barbie bathing suit, pet gear and toys or even colorful sails for itty-bitty sailboats.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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